Pergamum: Satan’s Seat – Revelation 2:12-17

By John Bellingham on September 6, 2020
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Pergamum:  Satan’s Seat

Revelation 2:12-17

I. Two Swords – vv. 12-13

  1. The Sword of the Lord
    1. Jesus is pictured in Revelation as a warrior King with a two-edged sword coming from His mouth (cf. 1:16, 19:15)
    2. The sword is a symbol of Christ’s authority and power to judge
  2. The Sword of the State
    1. God has established various spheres of authority, one of which is the State
    2. God has entrusted the sword to human government for the preservation of public justice – cf. Romans 13:4
      • When human governments use the sword to protect the innocent and to punish the wicked, they act as God’s ‘servant’
      • When human governments use the sword to slaughter the innocent and to advance wickedness, they act as a tyrannical ‘beast’
    3. Although the Roman state often protected the rights of Christians during the early years of the Church’s existence, they eventually became a great persecutor of the Church
    4. In Pergamum, the sword of state had been misused to slaughter a faithful Christian man named Anitpas, and presumably to martyr and threaten other members of the Church

Application:  The picture of Christ with a two-edged sword is a comforting reminder that He alone is the ultimate authority in the universe, and that He stands supreme over every other ruler here on earth.   Those who abuse the authority that God has delegated will eventually come under divine judgment.

II. Two Dwelling Places – v. 13

  1. The Dwelling Place of Satan
    1. Pergamum is twice mentioned as the location of Satan’s throne and dwelling
    2. Pergamum was a centre for pagan worship
      • As the capital city of Asia Minor, the cult of Emperor worship was firmly established
      • Pergamum had a Temple and Altar dedicated to Zeus – the father of the Roman pantheon. It is probably this famous altar which is referred to as Satan’s ‘throne’
      • Idol worship = Satan worship
  2. The Dwelling Place of the Church
    1. Pergamum was not only the place of Satan’s dwelling, but the place where these Christians lived
    2. The Christians in Pergamum were dwelling in enemy territory

Application:   Although the city of Pergamum was filled with pagan worship, the same thing is true of our modern cities, for any worship that is not rightly offered to Christ is being offered to demons!    We should not forget that we occupy the same territory as a dangerous enemy who prowls about as a roaring lion.  Neither should we forget that this lion is on a leash, and that he can do nothing on earth that God does not sovereignly permit.    Through the cross Satan has been defeated and bound, and the house of the strong man is being plundered as the gospel advances into all the world.


III. Two Spiritual Problems – vv. 14-16

  1. Balaamites
    1. In the Old Testament, Balaam was a prophet who used his gift for financial gain (cf. Numbers 22-25)
    2. King Balak of Moab hired Balaam to curse Israel, but in spite of his best efforts Balaam could only utter blessings upon the covenant people
    3. Unable to curse Israel directly, Balaam advised King Balak to seduce the Jewish men with Moabite women, and thus to provoke Israel to disobey the terms of God’s covenant and to bring upon themselves the covenant curses
    4. In the Church of Pergamum, false prophets were following the same course as Balaam – tempting the Christians in that Church to make compromises with the pagan culture around them
  1. Nicolaitans
    1. Church tradition traces the origin of this heretical sect to a deacon named Nicolaus who is mentioned in Acts 6:5
    2. We know very little about the Nicolaitans, and the Bible does not describe the nature of their teaching. Very likely they had a similar agenda to the ‘Balaamites’ – to forge an unholy alliance between Christianity and paganism
    3. Although the Nicolaitans were rejected from the Church in Ephesus, they received a more sympathetic reception in Pergamum – perhaps because the persecution was more intense and the pressure to compromise was greater

Application:   Just as God brought a sword againt Balaam (cf. Joshua 13:22), so will he fight against all those who promote wickedness and idolatry.    It is somewhat shocking to see a picture of Christ threatening to fight this Church with a sword, but it’s a sobering reminder that the Lord will not overlook evil and compromise within the covenant community.    Any so-called church that replaces the true gospel with a form of pagan idolatry will come under God’s judgment.   In our own world these would include ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ Churches which have sought to form an alliance with a culture that is sold out to wickedness and moral depravity.   The Balaamites and Nicolaitans are still among us today!


IV. Two Precious Promises – v. 17

  1. The Promise of ‘Hidden Manna’
    1. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, God provided the daily food that they needed
    2. So too will He provide for the needs of His Church as we live in the wilderness of this fallen world, and journey toward our final destination
    3. Manna is also a ‘type’ of Christ, who is the true bread of life (cf. John 6)   By promising manna to these persecuted Christians, the Lord is reminding them of His own presence and power to save and to keep.
  1. The Promise of a White Stone and a New Name
    1. In the court system of ancient Rome, jurors would indicate the innocence of an accused party by presenting a white stone to the Judge
    2. It may be that the white stone is symbolic of the Christian’s justification – that we stand vindicated and innocent in the courtroom of God, and clothed with the righteousness of Christ
    3. God not only declares us innocent, but gives us a new identity – inscribing upon us the name of His Son, and declaring that we know belong to Him


Application:   Although there are many dangers, toils and snares in this fallen and broken world, the Lord has provided everything we need to journey through the wilderness and to make it safely into our promised inheritance.    We have the hidden manna (Jesus Christ) and the white stone (justification through His blood).   Although fake ‘Christians’ will be exposed and judged along the way, true Christians who are numbered among God’s elect will persevere to the end and will never be lost!

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